Episode 5 – Belonging to our Cities

A Conversation with Urban Planner, Mustafa Sherif

In this episode, I sit down with Mustafa Sherif (LinkedInInstagram). He is the creator and host of the URBANISTICA podcast. He is also an Urban Planner working at AFRY in Stockholm, Sweden. 

Mustafa was born in Bagdad and came to Sweden with his family at age 17. He received a degree in architecture and later when on to complete a Masters in Urban Planning and Design from the Royal Technical Institute (KTH).

This is a wide-ranging conversation with someone that has given a lot of thought into how cities should be designed and how do these decisions affect people. We cover a lot of topics including how he defines the concept of “home”, what makes a good city and how Urban Planning has changed over the years to become more inclusive. 

I hope you enjoy the joy of this fascinating interview about belonging to our cities. 

 Please find below the show notes including links to everything we talked about. 


Q (Question): Where is your favorite place and why?

A (Answer): Piazza Duomo, Milano, Italy. Because of the people. There are no trees, nor fountains, just people. Being among people, watching them even, brings joy. 

 – Jan Gehl – FAIA is a Danish architect and urban design consultant based in Copenhagen whose career has focused on improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards the pedestrian and cyclist.

Q: Where does your story start? 

A: Born in Bagdad, Iraq, in 1993. His parents’ concern and threats of security forced Mustafa’s family to move from within Bagdad to other parts of Iraq, before eventually arriving in Sweden. 

Arrived in Sweden as 17 years old, and his family decided that was no going back, Sweden was going to be permanent. 

Q; How did you get interested in Urban Planning?

A: After learning Swedish, Mustafa enrolled in university went on to study Architecture. He later went on to study Urban Planning and Design at KTH (Royal Technology University) in Stockholm. This opened up an opportunity to study in Milan as an exchange student, which he describes as one of the best experiences of his life. 

Q: Can you recall a moment where you felt like you didn’t belong?

A: Yes, every time we landed in a new place, city, or country. In the first moments, it feels like this is not our place. During these moves, we kept reminding ourselves

Q: What was it like moving to Sweden?

A: Mustafa’s moved to many different places within Iraq. He was one of 4 siblings and his father feared for his and his family’s safety. Eventually arriving in Sweden. 

His curiosity led him to ask why he felt happier in some places, and what of that is a product of the larger scale of experience, outside buildings.   

Q: How do you define “home”?

A: Home is made up of two components, the ‘hardware’ and the ‘software’. Hardware refers to physical and tangible things like a house, dwelling, or property of some kind. This is something that you own. The ‘software’ is the emotional, cultural, and spiritual aspects. It was not until his parents bought their place in Helsingborg that he was able to call this place home. Now he bought a place in Stockholm and is happy to call it his home. 

Q: How did you get into Urban Planning?

A: He always held the “vibe” of a place, and wanted to understand why he felt better in some places and worse in others. He started in architecture, but it was not his “why”. He felt that life is much larger than individual buildings. Urban planning offered a way to see how many different aspects come together to create life. 

Urban planning offers also the possibility to change things, to improve the lives of others. 

“In most dense cities in the world, 

Q: Can you explain what the Placemaking movement is about?

A: Placemaking started in the ’70s, and it has grown a lot since those early days. Placemaking is about making a space that no one likes or wants into a place where everyone feels welcomed and wants to be. It acts on the principle of co-creation and inclusion, where everyone plays a part and has a say in defining how the space should be used and transformed. It is a truly welcoming and inclusive method for creating places where everyone belongs. 

Q: Why isn’t Placemaking the norm? How was Urban planning done 20-30 years ago? 

A: Urban planning was top-down. The urban planners would create a scenario for people to follow. Little attention was paid to people’s needs. The USA is a typical example of how urban planning can go wrong. There the planning was made around the highway and cars. 

Placemaking is a global organization ( ) 

Q: What projects are you currently working on?

A: Currently I am involved in a Placemaking project in Helsingborg. We are applying this method for designing a park and public square. It will be finished in about 2 years (2023) since placemaking does take its time. 

Q: How are things changing on a Political level? How are cities changing their approach these days?

A: There is now a very clear and widespread awareness that cities and urban spaces can no longer be designed around the car. They are also looking at being more inclusive. Take Stockholm as an example, for every urban project there is a law that says that every stakeholder must be consulted, and how can this feedback be included and incorporated into the project. 

It is quite normal for Urban Planners to spend a lot of time talking to people and asking them about their wants and desires for the space. It is then their job to document and interpret these stories into decisions within the planning. 

The result will be a shift in the scale of cities. Cities will become more accessible and liveable, much in the way the cities in Italy are on the right scale. 

Rapid-fire questions

Your favorite city and why?

Milano, for the art and culture

Which place would you like to visit (that you haven’t visited before)?

Time Square, NYC. After watching it on screen, it would be great to experience it in person. 

Books that you recommend?

“Koden För En Bra Stad: Haussmanns Paris” (The code for a good city, Haussman’s Paris). A critical take on the (re)building by Napoleon 3rd. 

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

Mustafa’s Podcast, “Urbanistica”

Arch daily: 

Final words from Mustafa

Ask yourself how much space is enough for you? How can we be more aware of the space we live and use every day? People should be more conscious about the space they are using and what kind of places they would like to live in. 

Thank you for listening. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe! 


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Thank you for listening! 

I would love your Feedback: Please send me an email at and let me know what you thought of the episode. 

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4 – Art, Emotions, and Belonging with Kerone Campbell

My guest today is a spoken word Artist named Kerone Campbell

Kerone was born in Jamaica, raised in Brooklyn, NYC, and has been living in Stockholm for 6 years. Kerone, like many of us, is someone that has given a lot of thought to Belonging. Through his words and his Art, he is able to communicate wholeheartedly, in a way that very few of us can. 

However, can all relate to the emotions that his work evokes. 

  • Kerone is has been a creative person who was born in Kingston, Jamaica. 
  • Immigrated to New York City (Jamaica Queens) when he was 10 years old

Where/when does Kerone belong?

  • Kerone belongs in the present, but it was never that way
  • Throughout his life, he never felt like he truly belongs. 
  • He found his belonging in Stockholm – when walking to the supermarket

The disillusionment of not fitting into ideals as a child immigrant. 

Life lesson: When you immigrate to a place, you can be anyone you want to be. 

Q: What’s it like being back in Sweden, compared to being black in New York?

  • In Sweden, racism is more subtle. The only time race and other forms of discrimination are talked about is at the extremes. Upon explicit forms of racism and discrimination, Swedes tend to say “Well, I’m not like that, we are not THAT racist”. They are quick to point at these extreme examples and claim the higher road without acknowledging that they might act on their bias or engage in other forms of exclusion.
  • Instead, racism is subtle. 
  • Kerone came to the realization that racism is their problem, not his. There is little he can do to change others’ opinions, other than just living his truth and living his life.

Book: Subtle Acts of Exclusion but Dr. Tiffany Jana, and Michael Baran

Why it is important for him to bring to the surface the issue of slavery and other traumatic events of the past. 

How did he get started with Spoken Word? 

Keron discovered Spoken Word in 2003, however, he would not find his voice until he came to Stockholm. He started writing following a painful breakup. Today he writes on many topics including family, society, and relationships.

What happens when you don’t feel as you belong?

How he found his own belonging. Why belonging is much bigger than what anyone else thinks or does to you. 

The importance of realizing that you are on your own journey, charting your own path. 

Do you have any tips or practices for healthy belonging? 

  • it’s important to follow curiosity

Sebene Selassie“You Belong” – talks about the importance of curiosity for finding belonging.  

Here is how to get in touch with Kerone:





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Thank you for listening! 

I would love your Feedback: Please send me an email at and let me know what you thought of the episode. 

You can also follow us on Instagram: or on Linkedin: 


3: Authenticity and Belonging to the Self with Chris Hovde

In this episode, we speak to Chris Hovde

(Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook). 

A self-proclaimed “Urban Monk”, Chris is unapologetically living a life where he strives to make sure his behaviors are in accordance with his values.

He is one of the people leaders at Telia, one of the largest telecoms with 21000 employees across the globe. He holds many roles and responsibilities, including employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, and promoting self-leadership. 

Chris sits on the boards of many companies and is very involved in many initiatives concerning the environment, technology, and issues around racial and gender inclusivity. You can check out his meditation and well-being initiative here: 

He is someone that leads by example and is on a mission to helping people live their most authentic selves. 

So at this point, you may be wondering why I invited an Urban Monk to be on a podcast about belonging?! 

Chris is someone that belongs to himself first and foremost. He understands that in order to inspire and help others, we must first live our own truths.

Chris is not one for excuses. And in this podcast, he challenges us to stop lying to ourselves and to start the journey to our authentic selves. 

Topics Discussed:

  • Cognitive Dissonance and how we tend to respond to it. 
  • The 3 dimensions of belonging (According to Mateo): 
  1. Belonging with the Self (the theme that this podcast episode is based on)
  2. Belonging with others (includes belonging with our partners, family, groups, community, nations etc., and any kind of inter-personal belonging). 
  3. Belonging to the planet or universe (understanding that we belong to this planet, with all living things and objects, including the wider universe). 
  • Singularity University Summit
  • Minimalism
  • Clarity and doing less is key to making an impact
  • Greta Thunberg is someone that is living true to her values. She doesn’t do too many things, just the necessary to make an impact. 
  • Finding peace with what matters to you, then anyone else’s opinion is not necessary. 
  • Change starts with knowing your personal values and purpose in life
  • Indifference is a trap, it’s better to have people hate you than to have them be indifferent. 
  • Being discriminated against for being gay helped him to connect with others that are also marginalized
  • Professional is a mask. Acting professional prevents people from being their true selves. 
  • Link to post, showing why it’s important to be vulnerable and share your story. 
  • The importance of stop lying to ourselves. We need to be true to our word. 
  • How to do a gratitude journal
  • The importance of walking the walk
  • His work at Telia, and how he is helping in setting up a more fair recruitment process
  • What makes Chris so special: he is not ruled by fear. What he wants is always more powerful than the force of fear. 
  • His mother had high expectations of him as a child
  • Reframe, from “hard work” to “smart work”. 
  • We should get off the hamster wheel of producing volume, and instead focus on what one truly wants to achieve in a quarter. 
  • We can have a bigger impact with less. Creating diversity and inclusion conferences online is an example. 
  • The Pareto Principle AKA, “the 80/20 rule”
  • Systems Thinking as a way to understand where to focus efforts 
  • How the pandemic was a gift, a sort of “reset” that Chris has been longing for, as a catalyst for societal transformation. 

Chris’ Summary of the conversation in 2 points:

  1. Start being honest with yourself? Change can happen with small changes. Try to find meaning where you are. 
  2. Start backing up the things you say you care about with actions. 

Reach out and connect with Chris: (Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook). 

“Regenerative Monks” – Where you can find his dinners and meditation services


This podcast is created, produced, and edited by me, Mateo Bornico

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Thank you for listening! 

I would love your Feedback: Please send me an email at and let me know what you thought of the episode. 

You can also follow us on Instagram: or on Linkedin: 


Episode 2: Howard Ross

Episode Notes

Welcome to our second episode of Create Belonging. This is my interview with Howard Ross, author of “Our Search for Belonging:  How Our Need to Connect is Tearing Us Apart”

About Howard:

Howard Ross is a lifelong social justice advocate and is considered one of the world’s seminal thought leaders on identifying and addressing unconscious bias.  He authored and co-authored many books on diversity and inclusion, including, Our Search for Belonging:  How Our Need to Connect is Tearing Us Apart, which won the 2019 Nautilus Book Award Gold Medal for Social Change and Social Justice.

Howard’s writings have been published by the Harvard Business Review, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Fast Company Magazine, Diversity Women Magazine, Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine and dozens of other publications. Howard has served on numerous not-for-profits boards, including the Diversity Advisory Board of the Human Rights Campaign, the board of directors of the Dignity and Respect Campaign, and the board of the directors for the National Women’s Mentoring Network.  

Howard has been the recipient of many awards, including the 2009 Operation Understanding Award for Community Service; the 2012 Winds of Change Award from the Forum on Workplace Diversity and Inclusion; the 2013 Diversity Peer Award from Diversity Women Magazine; the 2014 Catalyst Award from Uptown Professional Magazine; the 2014 Catalyst for Change Award from Wake Forest University; the 2015 Trendsetter in HR by SHRM Magazine; and the 2016 Leadership in Diversity Award by the World Human Resources Development Conference in Mumbai, India.  He was also named an Honorary Medicine Man by the Eastern Cherokee Reservation in N.C., and given Medicine Holder designation by the Pawnee Nation.

Howard founded Cook Ross Inc., one of the nation’s leading Diversity and Inclusion consultancies.  He sold the company in July 2018 and founded Udarta Consulting, LLC.

Question (Q): “The essential dilemma of my life is between my deep desire to belong, and my suspicion of belonging.”  What does this quote by Jhumpa Lahari mean?

Answer (A):
– We are encoded to belong as a human imperative for survival

  • Yet in modern times we are taught to be independent, and we focus on being individualistic. 
  • For this reason we tend to go towards the groups where we have a lot in common with, so that we are able to express our individuality within the group.

Q: Udarta is the name of your current organisation, where does the name come from?

A: The name is a Hindi word roughly translated as “Generosity and Kindness”. More than half the work we do at Udarta is pro-bono and charitable. 

Q: Where did you get started to work for a more equitable and fair society?


His origins in activism is a result of his family’s history, with his parents being the fleeing worn-torn eastern Europe for the united states and he considers social justice work a  “family business”, with over 35 years experience working in this field. 

Q: How has exclusion and discrimination evolved over the decades? What has changed in the last decades?

A: History repeats itself, and MLK jr. said “The arch of history bends towards Justice”. So society has improved over the long history. However more recently, things have been changing quickly.
– The role of new media in cultivating more tribal belonging

  • The shift in politics from an “issue orientation” to a “identity orientation”. 
  • The role of fear, and how people retrieve to their “tribes”. 
  • Tribal belonging is more clearly defined and fear of being excluded causes us to act “against others that are outside out tribe”
  • We shift from an “issue orientation” to an “identity orientation”. 
  • Othering is a lot easier when we are reduced to our tribes

Daniel Goldman, father of emotional intelligence and the amygdala hijack. Fear gets in the way of rationality, causing people to act in their subconscious bias that keeps safe. 

How fear makes things Personal, Persistent, and Permanent

Q: Why did you use 3 fictional characters to explain your points?

A: Using 3 archetypes to explain the complexity of relationships – why identify and affiliations are not so clear-cut.
– The characters are an archetype of “intersectionality” (Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw)

  • It explains the difficulty of categorising people and how one person can be in an in-group and out-group a the same time. 
  • Jon Robert Tartaglione collaborated with th

Q Why is belonging in the workplace so important?

A: Most of us cannot choose who our workmates and we are somehow “forces us” to find ways to relate with others and work together towards a common work. 

Solving belonging in the workplace can have a deeper impact in society, since many of the lessons from the workplace can be transplanted to society.

Q: Why company culture cannot be “like a family”

-the workplace is more like a community 

  • The importance of contribution for belonging in the workplace. 

Q: How can leaders accelerate move towards becoming more diverse and inclusive?

  • The problem with always trying to “fix” things, or “fix people” this causes people to be reactive.
  • Change makers become fatigue of “fixing things” always trying to figure out what is wrong. 
  • People don’t want to be fixed and fixing things require a lot of energy 
  • Instead, having a vision can help address many of the root causes and helping people unite under a common vision.

To be proactive, it’s necessary to have a vision of “belonging”. All great change makers managed to act behind a vision: MLK, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi. 

Having a vision is 1 of 8 “Path ways for belonging”

[In chapter 9 of his book “Bridges to Bonding”, Howard provides the 8 pathways to belonging]

The 8 pathways to belonging are: 

  1. A Clear Vision and Sense of Purpose
  2. Creating a Container
  3. Personal Connection, Vulnerability, and Consciousness
  4. Inclusion and Enrolment
  5. Cultivate Open-Minded Thinking
  6. Develop Shared Structures and Forms of Communication 
  7. Honouring Narrative
  8. Tools for Negotiation  and Conflict Resolution

Exploring #7: Honouring Narrative

  • Understanding the narrative, the story we tell ourselves
  • If we are aware for the narratives that we are raised, we can find a different story for ourselves. 

Leaving our own identity is incredibly difficult. 

Understanding Bridging vs. Bonding relationships

Robert PuttnamBowling alone on Social Capita

Some people believe they are bonding when in fact they might only bey bridging. The example is bonding amongst women, with the black women are not bonded, but rather bridging. 

How bridging can lead to bonding relationships. 

“Rapid Fire” questions 

What is one country to visit?

China and Tibet

Favourite meal?


What’s a movie or show that you are currently watching that would recommend?

13th” by Ava DuVernay about the 13th amendment. 

I am in my element when…

“When I am with my family”

Final words:

We are in a very “special” time. Many refer to this time as a Syndemic

During these time it is specially easy to slip us into an “othering” and seeing others as a threat. This opportunity also opens up the opportunity to become more compassion and empathy is important. 

Here is the Google Talks Video of Howard talking about his book: “Everyday Bias”: 


Thank you to Aidan McCullen (host of “The Innovation Show” podcast) for your support and making this interview happen. 

Thank you James Robinson, Emmy® Award Winning Sound Designer & Engineer for helping me salvage the audio quality.

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Thank you for listening! 

I would love your Feedback: Please send me an email at and let me know what you thought of the episode. 

You can also follow us on Instagram: or on Linkedin: 


Create + Belonging

Naming the Podcast

Create Belonging is a call to action. We live in a world where traditional definitions and assumptions of belonging no longer apply. Technology and globalisation have connected societies more than ever. And yet, loneliness, isolation, and depression are considered commonplace in much of the world.

Create is the imperative tense of to create, commanding action and urgency. In today’s fast paced, ever-changing world, we need to create new models, definitions, and structures that serve our goals and enable a more Equitable, Just, and Inclusive society.
To create does not necessarily mean to construct anew, or to build something radically different. To create implies that we already have the raw materials, models, and concepts that can serve us. To create implies observation, curiosity, generosity, and action.

Belonging is the focal point of this project. Belonging is analogous to belongingness, a fundamental human need. It refers to our inherent need to form bonds and feel accepted within a group. Humanity would not be here today without our ability to form bonds and depend on each other.

So Create Belonging is what this podcast aims to do. To create belonging in the world is to make it more inclusive. An inclusive world is one where individuals can find a feeling of belonging and are not limited by arbitrary norms.